Last updated 11.20.21 — It’s a logical question, isn’t it? If you’re shopping in the kitchen knife ocean, trying to figure out what the best chef knives just might be. What do the pros use? Would Bobby use a Shun chef knife?
Lord knows, when I was a kid, eons ago, and I was first taking up guitar, I was fully aware Jimi Hendrix played Fenders and Jimmy Page played Les Pauls. Did I own either? Nope.
Same with chef knives. Although you might get knife ideas from pros, and their suggestions might open doors into kitchenknifedom you didn’t know even existed, you shouldn’t feel obligated to follow their lead. A high-end Japanese gyoto hand-hammered from carbon steel might not be as comfy in your hand, and definitely not as easy to maintain, as a trusty factory-made Wusthof Classic from Germany. What’s good for a chef, might not be good for you.
Bobby and Shun Knives
Shun is indeed the brand of chef knife you most often hear connected to Bobby Flay. It all seems to stem from a post on thekitchn.com titled Chef’s Favorite Knives which reads, thusly:
“In his top gear picks for Williams Sonoma, the celebrity chef [Bobby Flay] recommended the Shun Classic Western, which is hand-crafted in Japan. ‘I pretty much use a chef’s knife for everything and Shun is one of my very favorite brands.’”
There you have it. And Shun does make top-notch knives. But, funny thing is, there’s an older quote from Flay that sort of undercuts the above full-tilt William Sonoma recommendation. In an interview with Men’s Health magazine many years earlier Bobby says:
“I probably use my chef’s knives more than any other tool in the kitchen. I’m not married to a particular brand, because they all work, they all have sharp blades. My Shun cost about $100. You don’t need to spend a lot of money unless you’re making a lot of sushi.”
Whaaaa? So which is it Bobby? Is your Shun the cat’s meow. . .or is it just one of many suitable solutions? Your fans want to know!
The answer to this riddle points to some truisms about chefs and just what they expect from their kitchen knife buddies—and verifies my personal experience working in restaurants and inhabiting the kitchen-knife universe.
Best Chef Knives for Chefs
What chefs care about most is:
1) a razor-sharp knife that can be a) sharpened to a super-fine edge, and b) will hold that edge as long as possible
2) a knife that is comfortable in their grip, that a) feels like an extension of their hand, and b) will not cause them stress or strain from doing similar kitchen tasks over and over again for long periods of time.
Now, obviously, your average home cook does not need their chef knife to perform as well as a professional chef’s. They’re not slicing up perfect rectangles of raw fish in front of a crowd. And they’re not cutting up mounds of zucchinis into juliennes for hours and hours a day. Blistering sharpitude and proper ergonomics are not as essential.
Nonetheless, a home chef still has the right to enjoy a quality knife that will make their kitchen life easier and more fun. And the good news is that there’s a battalion of chef knives out there that will fit this bill—but there are at least four or five times as many that will not. Which is precisely why I researched and wrote the article, Best Chef Knives — Six Recommendations, to help guide kitchen knife newbies (which has included some fledgling chefs) to fertile grounds for shopping.
Interestingly enough, my curated list of six includes some of the very same chef knives famous chefs recommend as well. For example: Gordon Ramsey (you’ve heard of him, no?) supposedly swears by Wusthof and Henckels (the mainstays from Deutschland); Eric Ripirt (of Le Bernardin, NYC, a world-renown foodie mecca) raves about his MAC chef knife; and the late Anthony Bourdain had no hesitancy promoting Global knives. All three of these brands are featured in my Best Chef Knives. . . write-up.
Bringing things back to Bobby’s fave, let me offer my two-cents worth on the Shun chef knife I own and love—the Shun Classic (Photo below: Shun Classic 8-inch chef knife).
What I like:
– Nice, meaty handle—even though I don’t have large hands, I enjoy the grip.
– Long, wide blade. Perfect for big jobs like mincing jumbo onions and halving a watermelon.
– Out-of-the-box sharp. Plus, the hard Japanese steel stays sharp—with a little help from my ceramic hone.
– Easy on the eyes. Beautiful Damascus-patterned blade and Pakkawood handle are fun to show off when you’re at the island cutting up veggies for your guests.
Who knows, maybe the above is what knocks Bobby Flay’s socks off, too? But either way, you should give the Shun Classic chef knife a test drive for yourself.
KitchenKnifeGuru.com. . .have fun in the kitchen!